The intense desire to share Hope was birthed from a deep sadness and hopeless feeling when our Founder, Emra Smith, read story after story about the plight of the Syrian Refugees the Christmas of 2015 . . .
Stories of babies born on over-crowded dinghy’s, children falling overboard and washing up on beaches, women being raped. Images of fear enshrouded families with desperate loneliness staring through their eyes with an evident sense of loss in their every silent move. People who fled for their lives, leaving literally everything behind. As an immigrant Emra knows these emotions, even running from death during political clashes. In agony she called out to God, “How can I help?”
This is Emra’s story that birthed the International School of Story . . .
“I recalled a time that I told God that I do not want to work with the brokenhearted and right there, that night my heart was changed. I was engulfed in this hurt and filled with tenderness not just for the refugees, but for those that suffered for a myriad of reasons, in my city, my country, my homeland – all over the globe. Agonizing, I asked myself the question, what can one woman do for a world in pain?
Upon rising the next morning, the picture of the HOPE Tea Doll danced in my thoughts. Joy flooded my soul and immediately I drew her, found tucked-away fabric, sewed, wrote the note, added the tea and there she lay! A soft little ray of comfort to hold close to a heart with the calming fragrance of lavender and a message of HOPE and encouragement. Bringing a splash of HOPE when needed most.
The next day as I looked at her with the how-it-all-works plan configuring in my head, I thought, “How silly. Really now!” Doubts, fears and embarrassment declared this foolishness. Turning my eyes upward an impression filled my being, “You know who you are, the details of your story and how to share love and HOPE in dark places”. Yes, tea is so much part of my story . . . asking women to set aside the hurried cup of coffee for the quiet, languid sipping of tea. Catching and sharing stories is in my genes. (My mom wrote children’s stories for the radio in South Africa). Giving gifts is my love language and making them by hand a passion. So yes, it’s what I have to offer. All I had to give at that moment. I vowed to do it no matter how odd or difficult the task. And so the project began.”
This led to starting an active plan to share the Hope Dolls and skills to cope when all hope is gone. Emra realized that who she was and what she taught as a Professional Coach, Marketing & Sales Director, Human Resources Expert, Corporate Trainer, Author, TEDx Speaker, Entrepreneur, and Leader had prepared her for this next step. She founded the International School of Story in 2016 and embarked on the inaugural HOPE Walk, that summer. Now, we walk once a year for 21-days, 4-10 miles a day, sharing Hope though workshops, serving, speaking, coaching and training in corporations, whilst raising funds for the International School of Story. It is a highlight of the year as we gather stories, bringing light and life as women step forward to share their stories and find purpose through doing so.
After Emra served from the heart for a two year period in a women’s empowerment organization, finding, developing training, teaching leaders and building a global base, she chose to fully immerse herself into the International School of Story to share Hope locally, nationally and globally. As a core value, believing in collaborating with other strong women leaders, this work is progressing rapidly to share Hope through tools to cope, facilitating opportunities for women to step into their forgotten dreams.
We now are taking all we as a collaborative team are good at, combining it into our Emotional and Mental Health Symposiums – getting into the workplace and heart of our communities where stress, anxiety, and depression are rampant and sharing stories of Hope with skills to cope. We have started our youTube video sharing, Voices of Hope – stories to inspire and just launching our Teen Voices of Hope, where youth serve one another in the same manner.
This small first step designing, making and taking action steps to share the message of Hope through the Hope Doll has led to the design and launch of our growing product line – the Hope Tea Collection, t-shirts, jewelry and our programs and fund to support the incubator for dreams to become reality. We know dreams can come true and will. We know how. Our story shows that one woman with a heart to give, combined with deliberate action and collaboration with others, all lifting each other up, makes what seems impossible, possible.
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